You know when you see those guys at the gym who jerk their lifts and can do tens of sets and hundreds of reps, and you wanna be just like them? Me neither. You really don’t want to be the guy who can waste his energy on hundreds of poorly performed reps. Not only does it generate minimized results, but it can cause serious trauma to the body.
Performing exercises the wrong way and for a lengthy period of time can affect your body’s mechanics and get it accustomed to improper form and bad posture. You want to avoid these, because it creates a vicious cycle of bad mechanics – pain – worse mechanics – worse pain – and it goes on and on until you decide to fix it. Perform your exercises correctly for maximized results and better health.
Use Proper Form
Each and every exercise has its own form. Learn what the proper form is for the exercises you are performing. Generally, proper form requires every muscle targeted by the exercise to engage to its full potential. If you perform the exercise without contraction and total engagement, you'll get minimum results at best.
For example, when performing a deep squat you must engage your core, back and the muscle fibers from your glutes to your ankles and feet. Most people only engage the thighs and knees and that is not the proper form for a deep squat. The myth about squats being dangerous to your knees comes from misleading information from people who have performed squats with incorrect form.
If done correctly, squats can actually enhance knee stability and help strengthen the connective tissue. The proper/improper form issue ties into the number of sets and reps one can perform. Of course you can do 100 reps of incorrect squats, it's easy - and ineffective. But you are better off doing 10 reps of proper form squats. It's the only healthy way to do it and you'll see maximum results sooner than you think!
Don't jerk your Lifts!
A jerk is the type of lifter who, instead of lifting the weights with proper pulling form, jerks it off the floor. This is not at all an efficient way of lifting weights and it can cause major damage. Some of the worst things that can happen if you jerk your lifts are serious neck and head injuries - those can even cause a detached retina or worse, a complete C1 spinal cord injury.
The C1 vertebrae is attached directly to the skull and is referred to as atlas, as inspired from the Greek myth of Atlas who supported the weight of the world on his back and shoulders. Think about that metaphor for a second.
The jerking movement negatively affects your ability to stabilize your core and the lumbar spine. So, instead of the rapid change in speed that jerking does, try to control the movement by keeping your back stiff. Otherwise you train your body to completely rely on your upper traps to hold it all together.
This doesn't mean you must stop jerking all together and lift your barbell in slow motion. You should pull the weight up only enough to apply upward pressure. It's like a pre-pull that allows you to control the movement and the physics involved in your deadlift, for example.
Imagine if you had to push a stalled car. If you stand against it and push it slowly, you eventually get it moving and rolling. The sustained force pushed into the car generates the slow momentum and inertia required to get the car moving.
If you ran and slammed into it, it would not work at all. Jerking lifts are similar to that: it's like running and slamming into a stalled car. Not much going on there other than some neck and head injuries. So, in powerlifting terms: pull the slack out of the bar.
Maintain Good Posture
Once your back is gone - it's gone. Back problems are the worst things that can happen to anyone, whether they lift or not. So in order to avoid any grim scenarios, maintain a good posture all throughout your workout session. Good posture means that your spine is neutral, straight. A good posture is related to proper form when exercising. So, where a slight arch is required, slightly arch your back, for example.
However, in order to prevent damage and injury, keeping your spine neutral is key. Yes, the exercise will seem way harder, such as it will with proper form too, but that's the correct way of doing it. Otherwise you will encourage bad mechanics and your body will adapt to the wrong posture and form, which is against its nature. And that can cause damage that will be next to impossible to recover from.
Maintaining a neutral spine means proper alignment. Follow the natural line of your neck, shoulders, hips and feet. The natural line is not the one that feels good to you, because if you are used to improper posture, the one that feels good to you is the one you accustomed your body too.
Make sure your pelvis is not tilted forward or backwards; your head is looking straight ahead and not leaning forwards; your back is not arching outwards or inwards and that you are not naturally leaning any other direction. You should be standing straight and your spine should have a natural S shape, not an exaggerated one. Good posture when exercising means that you follow the natural S shape and don't force your body into unnatural arches.
Your feet should always be shoulder width apart in order to provide a wide base of support. When you squat down you should always bend your hips and knees and not your back. Keep your upper back straight when you lift and look straight ahead. Your chest should be out and your shoulders back, and lift by straightening your hips and knees, not your back. Never lift anything at all by bending forward and avoid turning and twisting when holding very heavy weights.
These are the main things you need to be aware of when you exercise. If you’ve accustomed your body to a certain way of performing your lifts and squats, it can be very challenging to remember your proper form and posture. But you want the best results, so these 3 things will become your manner of exercising in no time.
Improved form, good posture and no jerking when lifting means that your exercises will become harder with lighter weights. It’s important to switch to lighter weights when you attempt to fix your form, because you want to train your body into the habit of maintaining it. Increase the weights over time, after mere good posture and form are part of your way of working out. You will be satisfied with the results!